As mentioned previously, one of my favorite things about travel is discovering new foods! Though many may not initially think of New Zealand as a foodie’s haven, there are several delicious meals you must try while visiting the most beautiful country on earth.
It’s no small secret to my friends, family, and now our blog readers…I’m a foodie. One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering the local cuisine, and am more than willing to try things at least once. Though many may not initially think of New Zealand as a foodie’s haven, there are several delicious meals you must try while visiting the most beautiful country on earth.
Luckily for me, working locally, I was able to get the inside scoop on some of the best meals around, also some of the most bizarre (canned spaghetti and toast for breakfast). I also learned there was quite a learning curve when it comes to certain foods: Biscuits in NZ are more commonly known as cookies in the US, and scones are what we consider biscuits. Confusing right? I just confused myself writing that.
Now, back to my favorite New Zealand eats. Besides the obligatory Fergburger in Queenstown, be sure you try at least half of the foods listed below for a real ‘Kiwi Experience’!
The very best of the best! Meat pies (nope, not dessert pies)! Many of you have probably had some form of these; growing up we would sometimes have chicken pot-pies which share similarities to pies in New Zealand. The NZ pies are palm-sized savory pastries filled with a variety of fillings usually consisting of a meat, thick gravy/sauce, and maybe some vegetables. These beauties with change your life! Or at least, if you like them as much as me, they will change belt size.
The most common pie fillings are: mince (hamburger), hamburger and cheese, steak and onion, steak and cheese, steak and mushroom, and lamb. But there are quite a few specialty pie shops that introduce their own unique fillings and flavors — just to set themselves apart from the rest I guess. Once I even tried a chicken and apricot pie, and it was surprisingly tasty (my mouth is watering just thinking about it). Pies can be found everywhere and are generally a quick, easy, handheld snack. Most gas stations will have a warmer full of [previously frozen] pies, but to get the freshest and most tasty, you really should visit a bakery. I became a bit of a pie connoisseur during our time in NZ, and the best pie I ever had was actually out of a food truck from a lady who made them fresh every morning.
Just try as many as you can squeeze into your schedule!
Want a unique ‘Kiwi’ snack? Try a cheese roll from a local bakery or cafe. These delicious bread rolls are almost like a grill cheese sandwich rolled up but, no offense, are much more delicious. Cheese rolls are something many bakers pride themselves with in the South Island, and it has actually stirred up a good deal of competition amongst the locals as to which town makes the best ones. Basic cheese rolls typically consist of bread, and cheese sauce made from cheddar cheese (the real kind, which is white by the way for those of you in the USA) mixed with an onion soup mix. Simple enough right?! Cheese rolls are definitely a cheap yet delicious snack you must try at least once, but are almost guaranteed to be back for seconds.
These delectable bites have made it to several places in the world I believe, in one form or another, but I am including sausage rolls in this post because they are something many Kiwis absolutely love. My fellow co-workers even had sausage roll designated days.
Sausage rolls are exactly what they sound like; sausage (the non-incased kind) formed into a rectangular shape and wrapped in pastry. These weren’t my personal favorite but they do the trick with keeping away hunger, and seem to be pretty iconic. Try them with a bit of
ketchup tomato sauce to keep it authentic.
Pubs (aka home of the Mixed Grill)
If you are looking for dishes and full-sized meals that are decently priced, and don’t want to stick out as tourist, go to a pub. Not only will you be served fantastic food, but you’ll probably make a few friends while watching the rugby game that’s playing on TV. My favorite dish to order at our local pub (Mitchell’s Tavern in Dunedin) was the mixed grill — yes, you can get mixed grill other places in the world, but for some reason it seems better in New Zealand (isn’t everything better in NZ?). A mixed-grill is also exactly as it sounds: a heaping plate of chips (fries), a lamb chop, beef steak, ham, sausage, bacon, and topped with fried egg and maybe gravy. It also comes with a roasted tomato, but I don’t need to try and make this meal sound healthy…it’s a ‘slightly’ imbalanced meal for sure, but boy is it good.
Fish and Chip Shops
A cornerstone in the Kiwi diet, it seems, fish and chips shops are found everywhere! Despite what you may assume by the name, these take-away cafes offer a large variety of food beside fish and chips: burgers, thai food, chinese food, pizza, and other various grilled sandwiches and veggies. Not wanting to break the bank at a regular sit-down restaurant, Amanda and I found it fun to bring home food from a Fish and Chip shop, or take out on a picnic somewhere once or twice a week. If you are wanting to try a Kiwi favorite in one of these establishments, order the blue cod fish and chips (usually comes wrapped in a gigantic piece of paper)!
I wish I had tried this. Since I haven’t, I can’t speak to the actual flavor and if it’s good at all, but this is definitely a Kiwi delicacy I haven’t seen anywhere else. Whitebait is a young immature fish, normally less than 50mm long. They can been found along the shore and in streams and rivers at certain times of the year. The small fish are caught in a fine net usually held by hand, and are left whole and pressed into fritters and fried. I have heard they are very tasty, but like I said, I didn’t get the chance to give it a shot.
Can I still recommend it if I didn’t get to try it?
New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel
As you can imagine, since New Zealand is surrounded by water, a lot of the traditional food comes from the sea. I typically don’t prefer seafood, but because NZ mussels are such a delicacy and famous throughout the South Island, I had to try them. Much to my surprise, I actually liked them a lot better than I thought I would (dare I say delicious?). The ones we tried had more of a smokey flavor and, this may sound strange, but almost tasted like a cross between a clam and a salmon.
New Zealand lamb is one of my absolute favorite meals. I don’t care if it’s in a pie, served as a chop, or roast… If you like to eat lamb, New Zealand has it in abundance. Buying lamb is affordable, and about the same cost as beef — I’ve sometimes even found it to be cheaper depending on what cut I wanted. Butcheries have all sorts of ready-to-grill packages to choose from if you want the DIY option. You really can’t go wrong.
So there you have it: my top 8 must-try foods in New Zealand. I clearly put pies on a pedestal above everything else, but you can (and should) decide for yourself what you like best while visiting!
What are some of your New Zealand favorites?
Let it be known that the picture of the fist-full of needle fish at the beginning of this post were indeed cleaned and cooked by us! We were out checking out the tide pools in the Northland, and a kind lady gave us some to try. Although they aren’t the most common fish to eat in NZ, if you get a chance, eating a needle fish is quite the experience!